The Lee County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office implemented a new deposit system to allow members of the public to deposit money into prison inmate accounts.

The Smart Deposit system was implemented earlier this month and allows members of the public to deposit money into an inmate’s “canteen” account — an account provided by the Lee County Corrections Facilities for inmates to order commissary goods, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

The public can deposit money at one of the county’s three kiosks, online at MyCarePack.com or over the phone. The kiosks are equipped with touchscreens that allow a user to deposit cash or pay a specific amount by credit card into the inmate’s account, said Lee County Sgt. David Velez. By providing the inmate’s jail location and the facility’s name, the user can enter the inmate’s identification number to make the deposit.

“From the time the credit card is swiped, it takes about 15 minutes for the money to be in the inmate’s account,” Velez said. “So the inmate can pretty much order [goods] that same day if it’s a day for him to order commissary.”

The three kiosks are located in the lobbies of the Downtown Maximum Security Jail, the core facility and the visitation building. The kiosks are open 24 hours a day and every day of the year, Velez said.

Once money is deposited into inmates’ accounts, they receive a receipt containing the account’s balance. To spend money in the account, they fill out a Scantron-like order form provided by the vendor to order goods such as potato chips, candy bars, undergarments, toothpaste and deodorant, Velez said.

Previously when the public wanted to send money to an inmate in Lee County, the only option was to mail or submit money orders, which are manually processed. While money orders are still accepted, Velez said mail sent to the jail is sorted, which can stall the time it takes for money orders to be fully processed.

“The bottom line is that’s time consuming,” Velez said. “When you’re going through the mail, you’re basically searching for contraband, sorting out what is legal mail, what are the postcards that are going to the inmates and sorting out the money orders.”

The Sheriff’s Office contracted with Trinity Services Group in June, and in turn, the company supports all three components of the deposit system: the kiosks, website and phone service.

Velez said because the deposit system will reduce the amount of money orders arriving by mail, the Sheriff’s Office will be able to more efficiently operate its clerical staff since less time will be needed to sort mail. Some staff members will be redirected to other duties like answering phones or working in the property room.

The Glenn County, Calif., Jail installed a similar deposit system earlier this month to allow members of the public to send money to prison inmate accounts.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.